Confounded by people’s strong attachment to Deathism, I posited that they’re probably just automatically reciting back the answers they’ve heard. I thought better results would be achieved by asking “If you could live young and healthy for as long as you wanted, how many centuries would you want to live?” Get people to stop and think, ya know?
So recently when I was the TopicsMaster at a ToastMasters meeting I tossed out that topic, and then picked a random person from the audience. Turns out I had been naively optimistic (again!). The reply was “Just one”, with a standard Deathist elaboration about not wanting to live on without their friends/family.
This was partly my fault for not making it clear that this ability would be society-wide, and not unique magic.
But, with yesterday’s post about emotions being the biological tools of alliance-building still in my mind, I came to another realization. People are being alliance-smart when answering like this.
Right now, biological immortality is impossible. Saying “I’d like to live for hundreds of years” gets you nothing, any more than saying “I’d like to fly and be invisible!” does. When making such fanciful proclamations, the only thing to be gained or lost is the respect of your allies (or potential allies). For someone to say “I am so dedicated and committed to my allies that I would not want to live without them! I would rather die first!” sends a signal that one is a good alliance-partner to have. Loyalty unto death is a highly prized trait in allies. And while sometimes making this claim can be costly (maybe if someone needs an organ donated, or is in trouble with the mafia), it literally costs absolutely nothing to make such a claim in the face of eventual-death-from-old-age, since that’s currently unavoidable anyway!
All this time I think I’ve only been making the Deathist position stronger, by making supporting it have a social payoff. Dammit!
New strategy then – try to flip the tables, and make it look like supporting Deathism is a strike against your allies instead. Because, honestly, it is. You’re taking the position that you’re cool with all your allies dying due to inaction. New phrasing:
“If science cured aging, and your children & loved ones could live young and healthy as long as they wanted, how many centuries do you think we should limit them to?”
That’s probably too crass. But it’s a starting point. And supposedly this difference in thinking can help. When finding that women who ask for raises are much less assertive than their male counterparts, they were advised to stop thinking that they were asking for a raise for themselves and start thinking that they were asking for others, such as their children or family. Apparently that made a big difference. So, from now no more appeals to a person’s own survival when fighting Deathism – EVER. Only appeals to the altruism of preventing the deaths of their loved ones.